Sunday, May 13, 2012

To Cairo! Part 2: Our Adventures On the Nile

Text by Rhissanna
Ephemera by Plush Possum Studio

Antique Egyptian Postcard

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The bank note with the Arabic writing provoked a good deal of discussion on the hotel veranda that evening. Lavinia smoked her favourite cheroots, which kept away the mosquitoes, and the ladies clustered around Dr Crupper as he  translated the text.

"Well,"  he said,  "The message seems to be asking someone to 'Sail at once to the Colonnades and be ready, because the door for Isis has been found.'  It comes with a warning. 'Tell no one.' How odd. Well, I'm sure this message wasn't meant for Hortensia.  I wonder who it was intended for?"

The Hangar Club spread out their maps and guide books on the table and decided, though a process of elimination, that the most likely set of colonnades were the ones on Philae, where there was a temple to Isis. There was urgent discussion about how to travel. Dr Crupper thumbed through his notes and pointed out that Philae was pretty much submerged and the Club's submarine boat was at dry dock in Mysore. 

However, the  Hangar Club's Nile Houseboat was moored in Cairo, just waiting for the ladies should they decide on a pleasure cruise upstream. A pleasure cruise was all very well, but the Hangar Club were much delighted by the prospect of an adventure. They unpacked their pith helmets, stout walking boots and other paraphernalia of sub-tropical expeditions and took up residence on the Amelia B. (They had christened their craft  thus after Amelia B. Edwards, the famed Victorian Egyptologist)

Setting Sail Aboard the Amelia B.

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 The houseboat was a darling thing, the ladies declared, with all modern conveniences. There was, of course, a Chef and a minimal crew and there was just enough room for them all. They sailed along the Nile, refreshed by a delightful breeze somewhat augmented by Lavinia's smoke. The ladies sketched the scene and Dr Crupper took photographs of the feluccas bobbing on the river's pale green waters.

They disembarked at some minor ruins beside a village, where the children pointed at them and laughed and a goat tried to eat Dr Crupper's hat. They were met by a very personable young American gentleman whom Dr Crupper introduced as his assistant, Will Johnson. Will, he told them, would be accompanying the ladies to Philae. He'd sailed upstream in the Hangar Club's skiff to met up with them all.

Our Houseboat On the Nile

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Will Johnson was tall, a little lean and with a slow drawl that made all the ladies take out fans and begin fluttering them.  He handed  Dr Crupper a sheaf of paper, with sketches of the local ruins. In his other hand he held a brace of ducks.

The new assistant delighted all the ladies, shaking their hands and making the most fascinating small talk. He gave poor Hortensia the vapours by insisting he'd seen her the evening before looking at the village's ruins. Then he made a presentation of his day's hunting; he'd shot quite a quantity of plump little ducks. They were all piled up on the deck of the Club's sleek, fast skiff.

The prospect of roasted duck  galvanised the ladies into action and they rather crowded the poor Chef in the houseboat's tiny galley. After much discussion and an investigation of the stores, they decided on Duck à l'Orange, with the oranges they'd bought in Lisbon and a convenient jar of  Keiller's Dundee Marmalade. And, of course, Master Will must be invited to dinner, as he had provided it. 

The Hangar Club's Houseboat Menu

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Bouillabaisse avec des poissons du Nil 
Salade Almondine
Canard à l'Orange
Crêpes Suzette 
Fruits du Saison
Pinot Gris
Tokay d'Alsace
Café àla Turque

Crêpes Suzette Tutorial 
(Recipe Accessible Via Web)

It was very pleasant and the ladies forgot this was supposed to be an adventure, and became rather caught up in the delights of a houseboat on the Nile. They stopped at the villages and bought trinkets and fresh dates and happily submitted themselves to the gaze of curious children. Dr Crupper had more free time for his photography and note-taking as the new assistant was never left unaccompanied for one minute. In fact, you could hardly see Will for the cluster of ladies around him, hanging on his every word. The only woman who did not seem entranced by the new arrival was Lavinia.

Our Adventures Continue

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On such a stop, Dr Crupper was hunched under the cloth of his camera. Suddenly he stood up, a questioning frown on his face. He looked again through the lens and yes, pulling the image into focus, there was Hortensia, no mistake, dressed in a brown skirt and spats and wearing goggles on her head. 

Dr Crupper beckoned Lavina over and she peered through the camera.

"Well, Crupper, that is most definitely Horty. I'd know the old girl anywhere. But I happen to know Hortensia is wearing a rather flimsy muslin gown, not spats and a waistcoat. This is a rum show and no mistake. We'd best be on our guard."

The houseboat reached the sunken ruins of  Philae in the late evening, as the sun sank and the reeds were full of noisy frogs. A crocodile slipped through the water in a sinister fashion,  reminding the ladies that this could be a dangerous enterprise.  Will had his Winchester and Dr Crupper his steam pistol. Lavina carried a stout stick, as always. She declared, to anyone who asked, that she was prepared for any kind of emergency.

What they were not prepared for was the spectacle of Dr Crupper, tearing off his boots and hat and diving into the opaque waters of the Nile. He swam with surprising grace towards a neat rectangle of paper  which floated through some papyrus reeds. Catching it up, he held it aloft and made his way back to the boat where Lavinia heaved him in with one arm. 

"I saw my name," he gasped, to everyone standing around him, as one of the ladies covered his shoulders with a dry towel, "See? My name and...what the dickens? A date. 1767? 10:00 am March 13th 1767. It seems someone has an appointment with me and I'm rather late for it. Ladies, Master Johnson, I need your help to calibrate the Time Machine! At once!" 

To be continued......


Maureen said...

Oh my! What an adventure indeed... can't wait to see what happens next.

Steam Tea Travels said...

Maureen: So glad you stopped by!
Chapter 3 will indeed offer more. Hope you'll join us then!